A wrenching gift to give: Local families on impact of organ donation

THONLINE.COM | Keff Montgomery

One day before the car crash that took his life, Jackson O'Connell was in one of the places where he felt most comfortable -- the swimming pool.

O'Connell, a 15-year-old sophomore at East Dubuque (Ill.) High School, started swimming when he was 6 years old.

He eventually became a member of the Dolphins swim team at Dubuque Community YMCA/YWCA. On March 8, he competed in multiple swimming events at the state meet in Marshalltown, Iowa, and posted his personal-best time in the 50-yard freestyle.

The next day, Jackson was riding in the passenger seat of a vehicle driven by his friend. After striking debris in the roadway, the driver lost control of the vehicle, which struck a tree before coming to rest on an embankment.

Jackson was taken by ambulance to Mercy Medical Center-Dubuque and later flown to University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City, where his parents received the news that their only son likely wouldn't survive. In the midst of the unfolding tragedy, parents Steve and Sara O'Connell simultaneously came to the same realization: They needed to donate Jackson's organs. Continue reading